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Trip Report Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Buzios, Florianapolis

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We traveled through the South Coast of Brazil in Dec 2008 (sorry for the delayed report!) Just realizing how much valuable information I've obtained from this site, that I just felt compelled to give back!). The report will not be as comprehensive as a trip report, but hopefully helpful enough for some of our readers. Trip was 2 full weeks and we split it quite equally between the below locations.

Rio: Stayed at the Copacabana Palace (Rio) - was amazing...mainly because of the service. Great brunch on Sunday (Fiojada) and amazing pool. They even gave us a room upgrade...view was excellent...facing the beach/balcony. After a long day a the beach and prior to a great dinner experience, we would sit out, staring at the nightlife unfolding under our very own eyes. Very inspiring scenery. The beach was perfectly fine...yes, crowded (both in Copa and Ipanema), but living in a major city, I am used to crowds so it did not bother us. Instead, we felt very much part of the city.
Also stayed at the Fasano in Ipanema...a bit cleaner, I get the appeal (over Copa), but service at Fasano, interestingly enough, was less attentive than Copacabana...we though about going back to Copa (especially since it's 1/2 the price - Copa was about $500/night - Fasano about $900USD), but the balcony and view of the ocean won over. Rooftop pool was also incredibly awe-inspiring. A "younger" scene...(we are in our early 30s). But service that reflects that ... not as "high touch" as what you would expect from perhaps an older, more refined establishment (the difference was palpable). Nonetheless, it wasn't frigid...just different.
*Side trip for lunch in Santa Teresa Hotel (on-site restaurant) and Apravizel (sp?), not to be missed!! :) Amazing - particular Apravizel dining experience...if you are staying at a top hotel, have them make reservations, you are essentially guaranteed wonderful, reserved seats.
*Favela trip via "Real Rio Tours" or similar sounding name was one of the highlights of our experience there...walking tour. I don't want to spoil it for you, but please do consider going. A social responsible tour company, part of the money goes back to the community (schools in favelas, etc). Do your research, but it sounded legitimate. Guide was Carioca, with great English speaking skills - they picked us up at the Fasano.

Buzios: I think we took car service there (3 hours?). Also amazing fishing town... Rather not divulge name of where we stayed because of an avoidable mishap during the check-in process. Basically, we got the wrong room and the way they handled it was disappointing and infuriating (therefore we will never visit them again and I do not want to encourage business). I know some people don't care about the room, but we do (especially when we are spending a significant amount of time in research (and dollars) searching and selecting the "right" room (especially if we book it far, far in advance). Anyways...hotel facilities were great. Town was predictably touristy (heavy European and other South American, i.e., Argentinian descent influence), but the number of options was nice. Walkable town - definitely great for 2 nights/ 3 days. Highlight of this trip: take a private boat tour that takes you "beach hopping" -- about 4 hours (just you and your guest)...magical experience. Seriously, you hop from remote beach to remote beach and you jump off the boat to this random beach where it's just you, your friend/partner/significant other and the boat driver...you look around and NO ONE is around. Kinda freaky, but memorable and very, very special. Rum punch, fresh fruit are served and great authentic music plays in the background as you are swimming in the middle of the option. I believe the cost was between 300 - 500 USD for 4 hours - can't remember specifics.

Florianapolis: Ponta Dos Ganchos (planning a special event? - book it now!! I promise you will have no regrets (unless you want a party scene - and this was the end of our "party" trip, for our 9th year anniversary). I have never been as inspired and blown away by natural beauty, scenery and SERVICE (which was the best we have ever, ever received at any luxury hotel and that's saying something). Snapshots: after extensive travel, my mani/pedi needed replenishing...hotel arranged a local business spa owner to come to our individual cabana for a mani/pedi in our very generously sized balcony/terrace...a few nights in, we mentioned in passing during breakfast that we wanted to see a certain movie (not included in their already extensive DVD library)...without even hinting at it, Part I and Part II of the movie we mentioned arrived at our cabana that evening!!!! Someone literally went to town to get us both movies!!! Rooms are censored, so every time we left the room...even if just for a 1 hour walk around the beautiful premises or to the vegetable garden, the room was refreshed upon our return! They knew it was our anniversary (and I wondered if this had something to do with it, so we kept getting ongoing free drinks (bottles of champagne, glasses of wine at dinner, etc). By the way, cost was around $900/night USD, however it was inclusive of all 3 meals...high quality meals (lots of quality seafood given the location and excellent, fresh organic vegetables). Chef came out to meet and greet us a few times (my partner does not each fish, so the chef made it a point to cook creative vegetable meals during our stay to enhance our dining experience). Above and beyond! The beach was exceptional, surroundings were lush, staff seemed REALLY happy...not corny happy, but genuinely happy to be there (as an HR professional, I asked the general manager about their team selection and what appeared to be a highly engaged staff) and he went into detail about the selection and training process. Wow. I was impressed and I work at a Fortune 50 company that invests heavily on hiring and retention... Anyways, I can go on forever...all I have to say that this place was magical and the only thing that comes close to our experience at Ponto dos Ganchos in Florianopolis was our stay at Park Hotel Kenmare in County Kerry (Ireland). At the risk of sounding...overly sentimental...I chocked up upon departing both of these hotels...I just did not want to leave...

I hope these assist you in any way during your trip planning!! :)

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